Assisted reproductive technologies like in-vitro fertilization (IVF) has emerged as a boon for many couples who face reproductive problems such as infertility, polycystic ovary syndrome, erectile dysfunction, etc.
The first test-tube baby, Louise Brown was born in 1978. From then, more than five million children have been born using this technique. But are these children healthy?
Dr.Pascal Gagneux, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California at San Diego in the US has recently shared his views on these techniques at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Washington DC.
"You can get healthy children using that technique. The jury is out though as to whether those children are going to be healthy 80 years down the line," said Dr.Pascal Gagneux.
Another technique called intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) involves injecting individual sperm directly into an unfertilized egg. He stated that this method is actually bypassing nature's way of eliminating defective sperm.
"The choice of the sperm is made by a technician, not by the female physiology. The concern is that by by-passing female choice at the level of sperm selection, we might produce embryos that contain risk factors that we would otherwise not have," said Dr.Gagneux.
He reported that studies have shown to cause metabolic syndrome and infertility in mice born through assisted technologies. The main reason behind these problems could be in the early development stages where the embryo undergoes genetic imprinting by being bathed in an artificial culture.
Dr.Gagneux said, "We make several embryos and we wait for them, observe them, for up to five days. During that time these embryos are in a completely artificial medium in a plastic dish."
"The big question for me is could we learn how to avoid potentially disastrous things that we are doing to these embryos because we don't know everything yet. It is possible that IVF babies will have shorter lifespans or themselves have children who will inherit fertility problems," he added.